Faced Binding Tutorial

FacedBindingTitleA faced binding is applied to the front of your quilt and is wrapped to the back.  If done well, it can’t be seen at all from the front, allowing the last border of your quilt to act as the frame for your quilt, and eliminating one last design element from your quilt.  Often used on art quilts, when an additional line of a border would distract from the art, it can be also be used on our regular quilts.


I used it on Kaleidoscope, as the printed border needed no other embellishment.

Step One: Prepare the quilt and strips
Trim the batting and edges of your quilt.  In the best world, your trimmed line falls at the edge of your fabric.  A little fudging here and there is okay.

For the binding, you’ll need four strips, one for each edge.  Measure the edges of your quilt and add 10 extra inches to that measurement.


Cut 4″ wide strips for a medium- or large-sized quilt, and 3″ wide strips for smaller quilts.

Trim Ends

If you need to piece the strip to provide the right length, trim both ends at a right angle (make sure they are slanted the same way) and piece together on the bias.  Fold the strip in half lengthwise and iron.

Step Two: Applying Binding Strips
Leaving a tail on each side of about 5 inches, pin the binding strip to the FRONT of your quilt, raw edges even, with the folded edge of the binding falling toward the quilt center, just like you would for a regular binding. Only this binding is giant-sized, and you won’t stitch around the corners continuously.

Pinned Binding

Continue pinning the strips onto each side.  Pin the strip nearly to the end, as you’ll be leaving the last one-quarter-inch of each seam unsewn.

QuarterInch from Corner

I measured one-quarter-inch from each corner edge, and placed a pin there to remind me to stop sewing.

Stitching Binding

Stitch on the binding, using a quarter-inch seam allowance, and stopping at your placed pin, 1/4″ from the edge.

Step Three: Mitering the Corner


Take the quilt to your ironing board and using a light touch, press the binding strips away from your quilt.

Mitered Corner2

Then lay the quilt so you can fold back the binding tails, as shown.  Work to have a perfectly straight 45-degree angle on those folds where they meet; use a ruler to help you align it, if necessary. Press.  The slight gap you see there between the folds is normal–the folds relax when you take the iron off.  It’s better to have a slight gap than to have an overlap.

Mitered corner1

Another view, but this is just fingerpressed.  While you can just fingerpress the folds, I think it’s better to get a hot iron on there so you can see the crease.  (See next image.)  Remember that you are pressing through double-folded fabric, so do a thorough job.

Unfold and align the binding strips for the first corner, making sure the pressed diagonal lines meet and folding the quilt down and out of the way.  You are also making sure the top folded edges meet.  I try not to pin this next seam to death, instead using only three pins:

Mitered corner3a

• #1–Place a pin at the outer, folded edges of each binding strip and line the creases up.

• #2–Then go to the bottom, near where it’s joined to the quilt, and poke a pin from the top crease down into the bottom crease, lining them up.

• #3–Lastly, line up the creases at the center and place a pin there.

Again, you are pinning along the crease you made when you ironed in that beautiful miter at the ironing board.

Stitch the seam.  You’ll begin stitching from the folded, outer edges and sew back towards the quilt-binding seam (at the bottom of the picture).  There’s really no need to “tack” by backstitching.  So don’t.  Just leave your thread tails long and you should be fine.

Mitered Corner 4

Trim the extra fabric to one-quarter-inch, as shown, then press the seam open.


This is the backside of that mitered join up above.  Notice how the seam allowances become smaller at the point?  That’s because I trimmed them down to eliminate bulk.  Trim out as much of the batting as you can, while making sure you don’t cut the stitching. Don’t skip this step.  Just proceed carefully.  (You will be fine.)

Step Four: Understitching
Often used when attached a facing to a neckline in dress-making, understitching is a technique to join the weensy seam allowances to the faced binding, which will keep them from rolling to the front and showing on your quilt.

First, since you pressed the binding away from the quilt up above, you’ve already started on this step.  If you didn’t press at that time, do your best to press it now, going as far into the corner as your iron will allow.


Line up your needle so you are just to the right of the binding seam.  Stitch a straight line, smoothing the binding and the quilt away from the seam as you go, keeping a light tension on the quilt/binding fabric.  Light.  The success of understitching depends on not letting the binding bunch up toward the quilt, nor wandering in your stitching onto the quilt.  Stay on the binding, smooth away the  binding and it will go as smooth as butter.

Of course you can’t sew deep into the corner, so go as far as you can and cut the thread tails long.  Now begin again on the next side.  You’re almost there.

Step Five: Sewing down the Binding

Carefully turn the binding to the back of your quilt, giving it a quick press, if needed.  Gently ease out the corners.  If you are brave and not foolhardy, you can use a chopstick to help ease out the tip.  But if you go too far, you’ll have a mess on your hands.  Proceed gingerly.

If after turning, you think your corners are distorted and look like the tips of a witch’s shoe, a little pulling at the side edges, just below the tip, will shorten that tip and bring it back into shape.  Set it with a little shot of steam from your iron, then press it with your fingers or a piece of wood until it cools.  Seamstresses use “clappers,” or smoothed wooden tools just for this purpose.  However, it’s better to lay a piece of cloth down and put your tender fingers on that, that to smash the heck out of it with a hot iron.  Never over-iron your quilts, or blocks, for that matter!  A horribly flattened block means that, to me, someone has decided to start wearing out their quilts early.

Stitching Down Binding

You’ll stitch the binding down by hand, just as you do a regular quilt binding.  Now you can clip those long thread tails on the top of the binding as you come to them.  Tuck the long tails that are on the backside of the binding up inside–no need to trim those.  If you find your miter is buckling just a little and has too much fabric, with your handsewing needle take a small tuck and secure it with tiny stitches.

All done!

Faced Binding--back

This is what the binding looks like from the back, when finished.


And this is the binding from the front–invisible!

Note: If you need to attach a quilt sleeve for hanging, you’ll create your tube of fabric and stitch it on now, aligning the top edge 1/2″ to 3/4″ down from the top, and leaving a slight bulge in the sleeve to leave room for the hanging rod.


Return to OccasionalPiece-Quilt (or OPQuilt.com)

Colorwheel Blossom_front



Kaleidoscope Top unquilted

At long last,  I have finished Kaleidoscope.

Kaleidoscope Front

Here she is on the fence, all quilted and bound and ready to be hung up in our home.  The first picture was merely the top, unquilted, but I like that image quite fine (it’s my home screen pix on my phone).

Kaleidoscope first block cut

Krista got me started on this process and the above is a photo of my first block, blogged about *here* so I don’t need to redo the gory details (just do a search for “EPP” in my search box, if you do want the whole story).

Kaleidoscope first block begin

I liked how I could sew bitsy pieces together into a new design and they could become something else.

Kaleidoscope more1

I finished my first block in February 2012, wrote about it *here,* using the completion as a sort of a milestone capping off a cancer experience.  While I do like the quick quilts that sew up in a month, or whizzing through a bee block, there’s something gratifying about a longer quiltmaking experience, as it serves as a thread through many experiences and days and months and weaves in and out of other quilts.

Kaleidoscope block 3

I liked how every block was a puzzle, a mystery, waiting to be figured out, laying out the pieces to see what it should become and how to sew it together. I liked that it was portable, going to many doctor’s offices, on a road trip, and certainly while making my way through three seasons of watching Downton Abbey.

Kaleidoscope on computer lid

One center laid out on a computer laptop one night.

Kaleidoscope on a trip

Photographed on a hotel chair, pieced while on a road trip to San Francisco.

Kaleidoscope block another

The way I cut and laid out the pieces was like a twist of the wrist on a childhood kaleidoscope viewing toy, the glass pieces tumbling into another design, another shape.  So I started to think of the blocks as visions through a kaleidoscope.  I didn’t know how many of these blocks to make–it was one of those things I just kept working on and I figured I would know when I was done.

Kaleidoscope three blocks

There were three.

kaleidoscope six

Then there were six.

Kaleidoscope trying out background

And then seven, and I was trying to figure out what to do.  I ordered more fabric (bless the manufacturers who don’t yank their lines so quickly!).  The small bits in the lefthand lower corner didn’t work.  So I went with bigger triangles, trying to let the seven kaleidoscope shapes rise to the top.

Kaleidoscope background ready to sew

I labeled and sewed those together by hand as well.  Then onto the existing top.

kaleidoscope feb 2013

It sat on my pin wall and I just didn’t know what to do–wasn’t really sold on it.  Then I thought about the border, chose the bright lime, auditioned it for placement: large medallions going down the middle of the border, or small ones?  Again, trying to make the quilt center the star, I went with the latter.

Kaleidoscope borders on

Sewing the top to the borders–the only time I used machine piecing on this quilt top. I decided to leave in the papers until it was all sewn, so they could stabilize the edges.  One thing about the edges in this quilt–none were placed with regard to straight of grain, so the top was very flexible, and needed careful handling.

Kaleidoscope Top unquilted

Once those borders were sewn on, the whole top began to sing together again.  And now the next puzzle–how to quilt it?  I let it sit some more, until I worked up the courage to move forward.

kaleidoscope backing

Cut and sewed together more of that second batch of fabric, trying to match medallion to medallion.  It worked well enough.

kaleidoscope pinned

I stretched out the back on my living floor, taped it down, then the batting, then the quilt and pinned it all together.   Still didn’t know how to quilt this thing, so it sat for another spell.  Finally, I realized it was never going to get done if I didn’t get going on it, and I had three days free–all in a row–so found the perfect thread in my bag from the last run to Superior Threads and got going.

Kaleidoscope quilting1

I like to sew on my dining room table.  I put down a placemat for my sewing machine and notions, and let the quilt slip-slide all over as I work.


To grip the quilt because I’m not a fan of quilting gloves, I use that stuff you can buy at an office supply store on my fingers (one brand is SortQuik–don’t know what mine is).

Kaleidoscope evaluate quilting

After two and half days and sixteen bobbins of thread, I wanted to be done.  Really, I did, but the border was a little ripply, so it needed some more.  Final tally?  Seventeen bobbins of thread.  The quilt is 53″ wide by 54 1/2″ long, so that’s fairly dense quilting.  I used a polyester thread with little bit of sheen for the top, as well as Masterpiece, a cotton thread.  I used Bottom Line for the bobbins–it holds more; I did loosen the top tension to get the stitch balance correct.

Kaleidoscope detail 2

Kaleidoscope detail 1

Kaleidoscope Back

The back of the quilt, with the two colorways of the medallions.  I came to really love this fabric: Michael Miller’s Gypsy Bandanna.

Kaleidoscope quilt label

I had decided I didn’t want a narrow border to show on the top, so went with a faced binding.  This label was the last thing to be sewn on, last night as I lay in my bed with my foot propped up on two pillows, recuperating from another surgery (this one not life-threatening, a planned event).  But still, for those of us who like to keep busy, like to be doing, this forced idleness is really hard to deal with.  I plan to try to figure out how to do some quilting this afternoon, my good foot on the sewing machine pedal and my gimpy foot propped up on a pillow on a drawer.  I figure I can get 30 minutes in before I say “uncle,” and head back to bed.


This is the 116th quilt I’ve made in my life, and the quilt is also part of the Finish-A-Long, quarter two.